I had the opportunity to recently interview Jim Shank of Douglas County School District, Castle Rock, CO. Jim is part of Douglas County’s infrastructure team which uses SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor to proactively monitor the schools’ servers and databases.
JK: What are some SolarWinds products you’re currently using and how do you use them?
JS: We started using Orion (NPM) to monitor network switches and monitor the performance of operating systems. We’ve also been using Server and Application Monitor (SAM) for over a year now. It’s definitely providing us great insights on how our servers and databases are performing. SAM helps us know when our databases are busy, whether there is an abnormal memory condition, and it alerts us when something goes wrong within our infrastructure.
We’re also using Alert Central for alert management and escalations, and I like how it’s integrated with SAM so we don’t have to watch the dashboard all the time. When an alert is raised, it’s automatically routedto the concerned team and they immediately see it.
JK: What was your initial reaction after using AppInsight (SQL monitoring feature of SAM)?
JS: With AppInsight, we’ve been able to drill-down specifically to which database instance is having an issue, which one is taking up a lot of RAM, which queries are being sensitive, and so on. So it’s been huge for us. We also get requests from the software team saying there is a network problem which is affecting the database performance. Having AppInsight allows our team to tell them the exact query that is causing a slowdown to the database. It eliminates the finger pointing and allows us to show where the problem is occurring from and the reasons for it.
As a result of having AppInsight, we’re able to be proactive. We share access to the console to various teams which alerts them when an issue comes up. The database team can now take care of the databases and monitor them proactively before a user reports there is an issue with the app.
Another fun thing we’ve been able to do with AppInsight is we’re able to look at slow procedures that are really sloppy. We’re able to bring this to the attention of the off-the-shelf software vendors, like software that helps with our student information system. We can tell them a particular query or a stored procedure built within the product is taking a very long time to load. If they tell us it’s a server or a network or a memory issue, we immediately tell them the specific query in their software program that was not built very efficiently, and that it is likely causing the problem. This also helps our staff because they don’t have to chase the vendor to try to fix the problem. We just look at the stored procedure that’s causing the delay. When we call the vendor, we can now tell them that the stored procedure data index student is taking 800 seconds to load. That’s a huge difference in getting the call moved to the right person in the vendor organization.
JK: The SAM 6.0 release candidate (fully supported in production) is now available, which means you can have deep SQL visibility. Check out the details and sign up for the SAM 6.0 RC here.